Second Circuit Creates Split Re Statutory Construction of the "Except" Clause of 18 USC s. 924(c)(1)(A)

Per United States v. Whitley, --- F.3d ----, 2008 WL 2405707 (2d Cir. Jun 16, 2008):

Finally, the Government points out that the Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Circuits have declined to read the "except" clause literally, see United States v. Studifin, 240 F.3d 415, 423 (4th Cir.2001); Jolivette, 257 F.3d at 587 (Sixth Circuit); Alaniz, 235 F.3d at 389 (Eighth Circuit), as have the Fifth and Sixth Circuits in non-precedential decisions, see Collins, 205 Fed.Appx. at 198 (Fifth Circuit); United States v. Baldwin, 41 Fed.Appx. 713, 715 (6th Cir.2002).

Although we hesitate to precipitate a circuit split, we conclude that there are substantial grounds for doing so with respect to the interpretation of the "except" clause. First, we have repeatedly been instructed to give statutes a literal reading and apply the plain meaning of the words Congress has used. See, e.g., Connecticut National Bank v. Germain, 503 U.S. 249, 253-54, 112 S.Ct. 1146, 117 L.Ed.2d 391 (1992); Central Trust Co. v. Official Creditors' Committee of Geiger Enterprises, Inc., 454 U.S. 354, 359-60, 102 S.Ct. 695, 70 L.Ed.2d 542 (1982); Rubin v. United States, 449 U.S. 424, 430, 101 S.Ct. 698, 66 L.Ed.2d 633 (1981); Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 485, 37 S.Ct. 192, 61 L.Ed. 442 (1917).

Read literally, as we believe the "except" clause of subsection 924(c)(1)(A) should be, the clause exempts Whitley from the consecutive ten-year minimum sentence for discharging a firearm because he is subject to the higher fifteen-year minimum sentence provided by section 924(e). The case must therefore be remanded for resentencing.


At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Joe D said...

Thank you Professor... I'm on appeal before the Second Circuit right now and working out the proper statutory construction for the Title 18 U.S.C. s 3142(e)(f) "detention hearing" provisions.


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